The summer of awesomeness

We just had the best summer of our lives.  We left austin for 7 weeks to escape the summer heat, and returned home with different ideas about what we want our lives to look like.

(this is a somewhat personal post, and it doesn't have any pics - just a fair warning)

To get away from one's working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one's self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change. ~Charles H. Cooley

As you have read here before, I spent a good chunk of this summer on a cross-country road trip with my wife, my daughter, and our dog - and a car so stuffed I thought it would burst.  But it was a fantastic trip.  We saw so much, did so much, and I shot so much that it will be hard to put into words...but of course I am going to try.  :-)  

I thought it would be fun to share a summary of what all we did, because I can't think of any other way to summarize than to just give you some basic quick facts, which puts it all in perspective.  (Plus, I have fun putting these things together.)  I will be coming back here with lots more photos as I get time to process them.  I’ve posted quite a few already actually, but I’ve only scratched the surface.  Hopefully you've enjoyed what I have shared so far, because there is plenty more coming.

In case you missed those posts, you can click the links below to check them out...and they are in the reverse order from which they were posted (oldest is at the bottom):

Catching a ferry to the islands   --  I grabbed a bunch of pics on a ferry ride to the San Juan Islands in Washington.

A stunning sunset in Cannon Beach  --  I love Cannon Beach, and this sunset will help explain why!

Sunset at Hug Point  --  We stayed right near this spot, and I shot it A LOT.  Here's a beautiful sunset for ya!

Golden hour at Haystack Rock  --  Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is very touristy, but oh so worth it!

Driving Highway 1  --  Everyone loves driving up Highway 1 in California and these pics illustrate why.

An unbelievable sunset in Bandon, Oregon  --  My first great sunset of the trip, and what a stunner it was!  Wow!

Sedona seduces  --  This was my first visit to Sedona, but I sure hope it's not my last!  

My 2015 summer plans  --  An overview of what we intended to do with a few iPhone pics thrown in for fun!

And now that I just provided those links, I didn't even realize that I have shared that many posts about the trip yet, so I'm kinda impressed with myself!  I'm usually months or years behind LOL.  I feel like I am accomplishing some things!

Here are some quick stats from the trip:

52 days of travel (25 nights in hotels, and 27 nights in a VRBO rental in Arch Cape, OR)

10 states visited or driven through, not counting Texas (NM, AZ, NV, CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, UT, CO)

5700+ miles of driving (roundtrip) - and countless tanks of gas!

9368 photos taken with my Olympus

1900+ photos taken with my iPhone 6

3 jump starts for our car, resulting in 1 new battery

1 oil change somewhere in Idaho

More Subway sandwiches than I can count!

Our route took us from Austin, TX up to Arch Cape, Oregon (that was the main destination), with many stops in between, and then a little further into the Pacific Northwest (Friday Harbor, WA in the San Juan Islands, to be specific) before turning back towards Texas.  Here’s a map of our route that I cobbled together on Google Maps:

we took the southern route across NM and AZ on the way out, and returned on the northern route through UT and CO.

Apart from the main destination of Arch Cape, OR the primary stops were Sedona, a couple of spots along the California coast (San Simeon to visit Hearst Castle and Mendocino area to finally see that place!), Bandon in southern Oregon (OMG what a gorgeous coastline!), Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands and Park City, UT although of course we stopped en route in many other places for matters of convenience (or exhaustion).

To say this was a monster trip would be an understatement.  We planned it for months and months (and saved up for it for months and months too), and tried our best to plot our route for maximum viewing of awesomeness along the way.  In some cases we were genuinely surprised by the beauty (Sedona, AZ for example) and in some cases we got within a few miles of something that we've always heard is awesome but did not have the time to stop and take it all in (Moab, UT for example - we'll have to go back).

Change is good my friends

It would also be way off base to say that we all returned as the same people, just 52 days older.  There is something about an epic trip (especially an extended one) that really does change you, deep inside, regardless of where it is you went.  You return feeling somewhat displaced, not in your element, like a fish out of water - call it whatever feels right to you.  The bottom line is that you are different, and when you return home, it feels like everything else is still the same.  

This is not to say that we are better than we were before - we're just different.  And I am not saying that the "same old stuff" in Austin is bad in any way (and for the record, I absolutely love Austin) - it's just that we have moved in a different direction.  And in which direction we have moved is still not decided...but it's clear to us all that we want something new.  We want something different.  We enjoy consuming new experiences and we enjoy traveling.

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.  ~Lillian Smith

We have reunited with friends and family, and it's been great.  We missed them.  But all of us can't help thinking that there is something more out there, something grander and more fulfilling than the life we typically lead in Austin.  To be clear, that is not a comment on our friends, our family or the city of Austin - it's just that we are all yearning for something new and different.  It's difficult to come back to what you know from the past and to just hop right back into that routine.  We are sort of straining against it.

And in many ways, we don't want to hop back into that routine.  We enjoyed being on a different, more flexible routine, and we liked it.  We liked it a LOT.  And admittedly, the scenery and everything else we saw was INSPIRING.  And who doesn't want to be inspired?  (Hey, I can't help that Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies.)

When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view.  ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

One thing we were abundantly clear on during this road trip is that we enjoy being able to quickly get to "new stuff".  Since we live in the center of Texas, it's a damn long drive to get to any other state.  You can't get anywhere on a weekend trip.  It's ~9 hours to New Orleans, for example.  I can drive for about 6 hours and get to Oklahoma City.  Or I can drive for a good 10 hours and get to Albuquerque.

But here's the thing - I have been to all of those places many times, and want to see something new instead (apart from New Orleans, which we are actually talking about planning a trip to).  I've been to OKC numerous times, and it's nice, but it's not inspiring.  New Mexico is very beautiful, but it isn't new to me.  When we talk about "new" we really mean new - like some of the places we saw on this trip, or some that we missed but wanted to see.  It's a big country out there, and there's a lot to take in.

And this isn't all about the great Western US.  The Eastern US is chock full of awesomeness.  There are a million spots I want to go experience in the Eastern US.  Perhaps we can do a similar trip or two towards the East?  Who knows?

And just for comparison purposes, if you lived in Zurich, Switzerland for example (I chose this as a starting point since it is fairly central in Europe), in 10 hours or less you can get to any number of amazing places: Rome, Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, anywhere in France...the list goes on and on.  The point is that in the center of Texas, our ability to quickly drive in search of new experiences is somewhat limited, based on geography.  And let's face it, you don't head off to Dallas or Houston in search of inspiration.  :-)

So all of this inevitably leads one to think of "big picture things", such as the biggest one of all: what do you want to do with your life?  That's a big question we all ask ourselves, then some years hence find ourselves working in some job and realizing you never answered yourself.  Hell, maybe you forgot the question.  That doesn't mean the job is bad, or you're bad, it's just that a trip like this one causes you to think, and think a lot.

I'm still thinking.  And admittedly, there is a lot to think about.

The truth is that I will probably be digesting all of this for a while.  When you are on a trip, you are very much in "consumption mode".  You are consuming sights and experiences at a rapid pace (and I am accumulating a lot of photos, of course).  That's often the point of a trip.  You want to go and consume, and you don't have the time while you are gone to digest what all you are taking in, because you are consuming more new stuff all the time.  Every day is a new adventure, with something awesome around the bend, or at the next exit (or train station, if you are in Europe).

This accumulation of experiences eventually stops, and - at least for me - that's when I can start to look back upon my experiences, form opinions, decide which things I liked and didn't like (and what I liked or didn't like about them), and start to form conclusions about it all.  That's where I find myself now - trying to digest it all.  And I am also asking myself a lot of questions, such as:

Did I learn anything about myself?  Did I learn anything about photography?  Did I expand upon my vision as a photographer?  Are there changes I want to make in my photography?  In my life??

And the answer to all of these is a resounding "Yes".  That's where we are now, and it's electric with possibility.

Thanks for stopping by and listening.  I guess I just had a few things to say.  :-)

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.   ~Miriam Beard